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Israel PM facing criminal investigation over bank privatization

[JURIST] The Israeli Ministry of Justice [official website] said Tuesday the state prosecutor plans to launch an investigation into allegations that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [official website; BBC profile] impermissibly promoted the interests of two business associates in his capacity as minister of finance during the 2005 state sale of Bank Leumi [official website]. Olmert supposedly favored his associates in the sell-off of the bank's controlling interest. The bank was eventually sold to a US group to which Olmert's associates were unconnected. Olmert's opponents responded to news of the probe with calls for his resignation, while a spokesperson for Olmert said he would "fully cooperate" with the investigation. Reuters has more.

Rumors of the criminal probe first surfaced [JURIST report] in October after word of an internal Ministry of Justice memo calling for a probe was leaked. Allegations of bribery have also been made, since one of Olmert's friends seeking approval of his bid for the bank overpaid for Olmert's house and then allowed Olmert to rent it at a low price.

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